Eddie V’s, the upscale seafood chain that Darden acquired in 2011, has opened on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. It has been described as doing for seafood what the Capital Grille does for steak. That’s not quite accurate. The dining experience at Eddie V’s is so different from the one at Cap Grille that comparisons are ultimately pallid.
And, frankly, even though Eddie V’s tagline is Prime Seafood, it manages to also produce a steak that could very well outdo the ones served at the two area Capital Grilles. More about that in a moment.
My guest and I attended one of the final preview dinners before the restaurant opened to the public on Thursday. We started with appetizers of lobster tacos and a duo platter of steak and lobster tartare. The lobster part of that wasn’t exactly a tartare, thank goodness, but rather more like a lobster salad without the roll. Delicious, in other words.
The steak tartare was coarsely chopped and served with the usual garnishes, including capers and parmesan, blended in. A slight bit of truffle essence gave it a perfumey note, and it was all wonderful on the buttery toast planks. (So go ahead and make a lobster roll, if you prefer.)
The tacos were also quite good, with full claw meat served on substantial corn tortillas (house made, the menu says) with crunchy corn kernels, a creamy salsa and fresh cilantro.
Chilean sea bass was my entree choice, and a more beautiful piece of fish would be difficult to imagine. It was a fist size fillet, steamed to a luminous white opaqueness, with tender flesh that fell off in large flakes. It sat in a puddle of broth fashioned out of soy and sherry. The sherry took some of the soyness out of the sauce and made it lighter, less stereotypically Asian in style.
My friend’s steak was a beautiful ribeye on the bone, charred on the outside and delightfully red on on the inside, just as requested. Each bite filled the mouth with wonderful meat juices.
Which is a good time to mention that Eddie V’s benefits from the services of Darden’s resident master sommelier, George Miliotes. You may not have the advantage of having Miliotes in the house when you dine, as we did, but he has crafted the wine list to the food and imparted his knowledge on the staff. So there is the perfect wine on the list to complement those meat juices.
And about the meat, here is where Eddie V’s outdoes Capital Grille. Most of the steaks on Eddie V’s menu are USDA prime; Capital Grille uses steaks graded choice. A very good quality of choice, but choice nonetheless. So for the true steak aficionado, prime is likely to be the choice over, um, choice.
To accompany the entrees we selected the sauteed sweet corn, firm bits of fresh kernels with chopped peppers, and the au gratin potatoes. I preferred the corn, but I can kick myself for not noticing the Brussels sprouts with bacon until after I had ordered. Next time.
For dessert we had a butterscotch panna cotta and the creme brulee. The brulee had a nice burnt sugar crust over rich custard. The panna cotta, served in a stemless goblet, was raised to a level of goodness with the inclusion of salted caramel. I think next time I’ll just order salted caramel. And Brussels sprouts.
The dining room is elegantly appointed and moodily lit and reminded me of something out of the 1940s, or would have if I’d been alive then. Tables are covered with crisp white cloths. Drum shaped light fixtures hang overhead. Guests sit at banquettes or in comfy, high-backed chairs. The multilevel expanse of the main dining room looks as though it’s out of an old movie set in a supper club where Rosemary Clooney sings in front of an orchestra.
There is no orchestra, but there is nightly entertainment in the rather large lounge area. Dinner seating is available there, too, but only by reservation if you want one of the many tables.
Eddie V’s occupies the piece of land where Timpano used to stand. Darden razed the existing building and erected one with Miami Beach Deco-ish tones in its facade. Besides the dining room, the restaurant features private rooms, including one with a speakeasy entrance that allows guests to enter without walking through the restaurant, and each has multimedia equipment that emerges from the ceiling for meetings.
There is a lovely patio that is more to the side of the building than it is behind it, on the lake. But the landscaping that has been done between the patio and the water is attractive (Little Sand Lake is not one of the more comely bodies of water in the area.)
Service was first rate, and the waiters fit the atmosphere with their white waistcoats. The servers I had contact with were attentive and knowledgeable about their new menu. The managing partner here is Randy Cook, who previously ran the Capital Grille at Pointe Orlando; the executive chef is Eric Enrique, who comes to Orlando from Wildfish Seafood Grille in Scottsdale, AZ.
By the way, the restaurant gets its name from a mashup of the names of its founders, one whose middle name was Edward and one whose middle name began with a V. Why they compiled them to make it sound like a gangster I couldn’t say.
This is a good addition to Restaurant Row, not just for its fine food but the fine experience, including the offer of entertainment. Inexpensive? No. Seafood selections run $18 to $34 and those prime steaks are $38 to $49. Comparing a dinner here to some of Darden’s more frequented restaurants, including Olive Garden and Red Lobster, lends credence to the argument from those who are urging Darden to break the company apart. That’s for business experts to hash out.
But from the standpoint of a restaurant critic, Eddie V’s is worthy of a special occasion splurge.
Eddie V’s is at 7488 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It is open nightly for dinner. The phone number is 407-355-3011.